REVIEW: DC UNIVERSE CLASSICS STARGIRL
The nineteenth wave of Mattel's most excellent like of DC Universe Classics figures largely features characters from the Golden Age of DC Comics, such as the Golden Age versions of Atom and Hawkman, as well as the original Sandman, Wesley Dodds.
And then there's Stargirl. She should probably be regarded as a successor to a Golden Age character, known as the Star-Spangled Kid, a name which Stargirl herself used for a time. She also has a connection to the Golden Age Starman, since she uses one of his devices. And there's an additional connection, since she's the stepdaughter of Pat Dugan, who was the adult sidekick of the original Star-Spangled Kid. Dugan has since taken on the identity of S.T.R.I.P.E., and operates a massive robotic battlesuit, that happens to be the Collect-and-Connect figure for this particular wave (see separate review).
So, precisely who is Stargirl? Let's consider the background of the character.
Stargirl is Courtney Whitmore. Originally known as the second Star-Spangled Kid, she began using the name "Stargirl" after she was presented with the Cosmic Staff by Jack Knight, the recent Starman, who had received it from his father, Ted Knight, the original Golden Age Starman.
The character is a creation of Geoff Johns, who based her personality on that of his sister, also named Courtney, who died in the explosion of TWA Flight 800 in 1996. Johns is an avid fan of Captain Carrot and the Zoo Crew, a team of "funny animal" heroes published years ago by DC Comics, and Courtney's original outfit is similar to Zoo Crew member Yankee Poodle's; in the comics, this is explained by Courtney being a fan of Yankee Poodle.
Courtney Whitmore, stepdaughter of Pat Dugan, finds the original Star-Spangled Kid's gear in her stepfather's belongings and dons the costume in order to annoy him as partial revenge for marrying her mother Barbara and supposedly forcing the family to move from Los Angeles to Blue Valley, Nebraska. Dugan, a skilled mechanic, designs and builds S.T.R.I.P.E., a robotic suit which he rides in to accompany and protect her.
During her time in Blue Valley, her frequent nemesis is the young villainess known as Shiv, daughter of the immortal Dragon King. The two had their most recent rematch in Infinite Crisis, in a page specially added to the hardcover edition.
Eventually, Courtney joins the Justice Society of America and, after being given Starman Jack Knight's cosmic staff, changes her identity to Stargirl.
Courtney has appeared in most issues of JSA and it was in these pages that her little sister Patricia Dugan was born.
Later, she confronts her predecessor's killer. Solomon Grundy, driven further into madness by the Joker's chemical assault, attacks the JSA headquarters with the head of the Statue of Liberty. With the aid of only Jakeem Thunder, Courtney fights him in the streets and into the tunnels below. The two heroes barely defeat Grundy. Jakeem's Thunderbolt fixes the statue. Grundy would later return, having developed an obsession with Courtney.
Courtney encounters Merry Pemberton, the sister of her predecessor. Originally, tensions existed between the two as Merry had feelings about her brother's legacy and also did not like the fact young superheroes operated on the same field as adult ones. These problems were resolved when the two were part of a larger battle against the forces of Klarion the Witch Boy. Courtney even saves Merry's life from an attacking Amazo.
Later, she discovers her biological father (Sam Kurtis) working as a common thug for an incarnation of the Royal Flush Gang. They would personally confront each other during one of the Flush Gang's robberies.
In Stars and S.T.R.I.P.E. and an issue of Impulse, Courtney dropped hints of having a crush on Robin (Tim Drake), but that hasn't been picked up on in recent years.
Despite a glimpse into the future, which showed an adult Starwoman married to Albert Rothstein (a.k.a. fellow JSA member Atom Smasher), Courtney briefly dates another JSA member, Captain Marvel, who in his true identity of Billy Batson is the same age as her. However, Captain Marvel was, by all appearances to those not knowing Billy's secret, an adult, and the relationship between Marvel and Stargirl drew the attention of JSA members Jakeem Thunder and Jay Garrick, the original Flash. After being confronted by Garrick over the issue, Marvel chooses to leave the JSA - and Courtney - instead of telling the team his secret. Marvel reappears in the JSA and revealed he can't give out his true identity due to the wisdom of Solomon blocking him.
During one storyline, Courtney's family was murdered by agents of Per Degaton. She traveled with the rest of the JSA back to 1951. The time-traveling adventure featured the Modern Age successors to Golden Age JSA members meeting and fighting alongside the originals to try to save her family and the future. During this adventure, she found herself forced to work with Atom Smasher again, for the first time since he defected to Black Adam's rival team.
Following this, she apparently forgave him, but Atom Smasher was then nearly murdered by the Spectre. Though Atom Smasher was saved, the events clearly revealed the depth of feeling she has for him. She was quite relieved to return after this time-traveling adventure to see that her family was still alive.
Later, Atom Smasher was tried and convicted for actions he took while working for Black Adam, and during a TV appearance, Courtney stated that even though Al was in prison, she would "be there for him... no matter how long it takes."
During the Infinite Crisis storyline, Courtney is approached by the Shade, who tells her of the final demise of her biological father. The tragedy and the witnessing of the mother-daughter love between Liberty Belle and Jesse Quick leads her to rethink her family life. She discovered that she couldn't hate her biological father for being an absentee, a slacker, and even a supervillain thug, and also learns from the tragedy to accept Pat Dugan as the first true father figure in her life.
Stargirl is also part of a makeshift team, consisting of the JSA, Doom Patrol and Teen Titans that attacks a rampaging Superboy-Prime in Smallville, Kansas. Superboy-Prime kills several of the Titans, including Pantha and Baby Wildebeest and maims Risk, removing his arm. Stargirl later attends a memorial service for heroes who had died in the Crisis.
Afterwards, she began attending college. She has changed her equipment: her rod now compresses to a small cylinder, and when she activates it, her costume and belt appear while the rod grows to full size.
During the "One Year Later" storyline, Courtney rejoins the new roster of the Justice Society, currently composed of legacy heroes, representing both Starman's and the Star-Spangled Kid legacy, albeit no longer with S.T.R.I.P.E.'s assistance.
Now a seasoned hero despite her young age, she forges a bond with her young teammate Cyclone, the eager and over-impulsive granddaughter of the first Red Tornado. The two bond over witnessing the death of Mister America, a superhero who had literally dropped into the first JSA meeting. Courtney suggested Cyclone create a new superhero costume and name. She resumes her role of mentorship for the youngest heroes by helping Jefferson Pierce's daughter, Jennifer, into coping with her imperfect grasp over her powers and her isolation.
Around this time, a future versions of Courtney is seen in Teen Titans #53 along with Lex Luthor and his future Titans. Her role is minimal. She is, however, wearing Jack Knight's goggles and jacket—the closest she has ever come to Jack's vision of "Starwoman" at the end of his series.
In the Final Crisis miniseries, when the forces of Darkseid move against Earth, Alan Scott puts out a superhero draft. Courtney, along with many of her JSA friends, join with other heroes to form an underground resistance. One of the many members includes a new version of S.T.R.I.P.E. They have many conflicts with invading enemy soldiers.
Courtney is present (and apparently involved in voting) for discussions on how to move the JSA forward after the Gog debacle (and who to retain or remove from the team); she defends some of the heroes who sided with Gog. Later she is present when the JSA meet a de-powered Billy Batson who reveals his secret identity to the others.
After the battle with Black Adam and Isis, Courtney was unhappy as the events had happened on her birthday (and had ruined any planned celebrations). When she went home and opened the door, the entire Justice Society had prepared a late surprise party for her. Later she was unhappy to learn she still needed her braces even as she was acknowledged as one of the senior members of the JSA. It has been established that both she and Atom Smasher love each other in direct quotes rather than asides and implied habits, but the elder JSA members' comments about their age difference forced Al to turn Courtney down, stating he loved her "like a sister".
Following a massive super-villain attack, the JSA is split in two. Power Girl convinces Courtney to join the JSA All-Stars splinter group. She later expresses a deep feeling of regret over siding with the All-Stars, claiming that she feels more at home with the original roster. Power Girl talks her through these doubts, telling her that she needed Courtney on the team because all the other teen members of the JSA look up to her.
Over the years Courtney has been a little careless with her secret ID with many school friends and even some villains learning it, (she admits as much during the Identity Crisis crossover). In fact Courtney revealed her identity to her friend Mary moments into her first outing (though she was at this point only dressed as a hero having yet to decide to give it a go as a career). It's currently unclear how public her identity is though it seems to be known by many in the heroic community. For example, in Justice Society #26 the entire JSA is at her home in full uniform.
Yeah, probably not the best way to maintain a secret identity there...
So, how's the figure? Well, at the very least, she's an additional female character in the collection. I would say that Mattel's DC Universe Classics line has been more generous than some action figure lines in providing prominent females from its core concept, but there's still a heck of a lot more characters they could do. I'd love to see figures of Jade, Miss Martian, Shadow Lass, Huntress, and any number of others.
But really, the figure is excellent, and very distinctive! Stargirl actually uses surprisingly few parts from existing female body molds, which means that there's definitely an above-average number of largely unique figures in this wave, as Magog is almost an entirely new figure, and the Golden Age Atom figure also has quite a few distinctive parts.
In Stargirl's case, one of the objectives was also clearly to make her somewhat shorter than average. Despite attending college, she's still not an adult yet, and it's also just as possible that she's just not an especially tall individual. The figure is barely 6 inches in height. This in a line where the average adult male is 6-3/4" in height, and the average adult female is about 6-1/4".
The female figures in the DC Universe Classics line are a tricky bit of business, heightwise. They tend to be more varied than the males. There are the more prominent and powerful characters, such as Wonder Woman, Power Girl, and Black Canary, who are nearly as tall as the adult males in the line, and then you have most of the rest of the female characters, who tend to share quite a few body parts. Examples of these figures would include Batgirl, Cheetah, Harley Quinn, Saturn Girl, Jayna of the Wonder Twins, and a number of others.
Stargirl seems to share the arms and mid-torso of these figures. I was going to say lower torso as well, but I think even that part is unique to Courtney here, since she has (11) stamped on her posterior, rather than an earlier year stamp. Everything else is unique to the Stargirl figure.
The figure is -- well, dare I say it -- cute. But then I think "cute" is an applicable term when you're a teenage girl with long blonde hair whose costume includes a bare midriff and spandex biker shorts, especially if you're personality can frequently be described as "perky". You're going to get called cute whether you like it or not.
I have no wish to be condescending, however. If nothing else, that cosmic rod weapon packs some serious firepower, and I don't want to be on the receiving end of it, thank you very much.
But, the figure is an excellent likeness of the character, and inevitably, the character could easily be described as "cute."
The headsculpt is excellent. Stargirl does wear a mask over her face -- for all the good it's apparently done -- that leaves the eyes, nose, and mouth exposed, as well as the aforementioned long blonde hair, which was sculpted separately and attached to the head during assembly. The figure's facial expression features an almost excessive grin. You get the impression that Stargirl is having a blast being a superhero and she doesn't care who knows it. The hair is a superb design, although I sort of wish it had been made from a more flexible plastic, as it does hinder head articulation slightly.
Stargirl's costume features a long-sleeved top that seems to be connected to her mask, and as I mentioned before, includes a bare midriff. The costume is metallic blue -- nice touch with the metallic finish, really -- that has a large white star in the center of the chest, and three smaller white stars running down each sleeve.
I'm impressed with the stars. I've always been a little surprised when some action figure whose costume or uniform or whatever features a star on it, and the toy company can't seem to get it right. A star is a fairly straightforward design, and surely there must be any number of ways to duplicate it onto an action figure. But I remember this Captain America figure turned out by Toy Biz years ago, part of their Famous Covers line of cloth-costumed figures, that had this huge blotch of white slathered across the chest that more or less resembled a horribly exaggerated star, and had used so much white paint that you could see cracks in it where the fabric had stretched. It was really pretty ridiculous.
The stars on Stargirl's costume are much more reasonable and straightforward. The one on the front is a little wider rather than perfectly even, but it still looks good.
Stargirl has red gloves, with little cuffs at the wrists. She is wearing a red belt with a buckle, and metallic blue shorts, more or less biker shorts, with white cuffs and white stripes down the sides.
She is also wearing black boots with red laces, arguably the most makeshift-looking part of her costume, as opposed to more traditional super-hero type boots. These, for lack of a better description, look more like the boots worn by a large number of professional wrestlers. The sculpted design, however, is excellent and greatly detailed, right down to the laces, and I'd really like to see what the painting stencil for those laces looks like. There's no way these were painted by hand.
The figure has superb articulation, of course. Stargirl is fully poseable at the head, arms, upper arm swivel, wrists, mid-torso, waist, legs, upper leg swivel, knees, a swivel at the top of the boots, and ankles. Mattel clearly took advantage of the costume design with regard to the upper leg swivel, as it's right at the point where the shorts end. Appropriate enough, but it also puts the swivel slightly higher than it's normally placed on a female DCUC figure. I'm also extremely pleased with the fact that, despite being a largely unique figure, Mattel did not give Stargirl any ridiculous double-jointed articulation in the limbs.
Stargirl comes with her weapon of choice, the cosmic rod, of course. It's molded in translucent yellow, and is about 6-3/4" in length, so it's taller than she is. It's a fairly high-tech-looking thing, mostly straight with assorted sci-fi gizmos along the way, and a sort of hooked end to it, through which it channels cosmic energy, much to the regret of anyone it's aimed at.
One additional note -- as I mentioned earlier, this wave features a Collect-and-Connect of S.T.R.I.P.E., Stargirl's stepfather in a robot suit. S.T.R.I.P.E., fully assembled, is huge -- slightly over 9" tall, and massive in build. He and Stargirl are a good match. I'm pleased that Mattel has given us BOTH characters in this wave, even if Stargirl was more of a solo hero in the later issues of Justice Society.
So, what's my final word? This is a cool figure. I'll admit, I never followed her own title that much, but she was certainly an interesting addition to the Justice Society, and we learned a lot more about her there. The figure is superbly made, and I'm especially impressed with the fact that she is as unique a figure as she is, while still maintaining the consistency of the line, and the metallic blue finish on her costume is a nice touch that really makes her stand out and look that much more impressive. And as a "legacy" hero, she certainly fits well in this wave of figures.
The DC UNIVERSE CLASSICS figure of STARGIRL definitely has my highest recommendation!